With four Division I-A recruits, Archbishop Carroll, runner-up to Cardinal O'Hara last season in the Catholic League, is ranked No. 2 in The Inquirer's preseason top-10 poll.
The Patriots are led by senior point guard Kerri Shields (Boston College), junior wing guard Erin Shields (oral commitment to St. Joseph's), senior guard/forward Hollie Mershon (Drexel), and 5-foot-10 senior forward Kaitlin Cole (Holy Cross).
Kerri Shields, a first-team all-area selection by The Inquirer last season, averaged 11.2 points and 4.1 assists while leading the squad to a 19-8 record.
"We're not big, but I think we're pretty quick and we can shoot the ball," Chuck Creighton, Carroll's second-year coach, said. "The girls come to play and it's a very coachable group."
After going 7-17 overall and 2-12 in the Catholic League Northern Division last season, Bishop McDevitt has its eye on earning one of the league's 12 playoff berths.
Second-year coach Jerry Frasca has four returning starters: junior forward Stephanie Clarke, junior guards Nicole Piluso and Mary Templeton, and sophomore guard Chelsea Burroughs.
"We do not have any seniors on this year's team," Frasca said. "But these starters gained a lot of experience last year. They bring an aggressive attitude into the season."
Last season, Little Flower lost nine games by five points or fewer. Since that group had just two seniors, this season's squad should be in the thick of things.
Melissa Benson, a 5-10 senior forward, averaged 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season. The other returning starters are 5-5 junior point guard Chelsey Kada (8.3 ppg., 6.7 assists) and 6-foot senior center Kelly Lorence (4.3 ppg., 11.0 rebounds.). Lorence, a quality shot-blocker was the Sentinels' most improved player over the summer.
Other players to watch are 5-7 junior guard Sydney Mallory (7.1 ppg.) and 5-8 junior forward Annmarie Collins (6.5 ppg., 8.1 rebounds).
Conwell-Egan last season made its first Catholic League semifinal playoff appearance since 1998.
The good news for the Eagles is that Carmen Tyson-Thomas, a three-time Northern Division most valuable player, is back for her final season. The smooth 5-10 guard averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.4 steals last season. She has 1,564 points and 925 rebounds in her career.
Tyson-Thomas will get scoring help from senior guards Rachel Moore and Trish Watson, 5-11 junior forward Jenny Rongione and 6-1 center Kaitlyn Mourer. Kim Breslin, a 5-11 senior, is a defensive stopper and solid rebounder.
Vikings in mix.
When all is said and done, Archbishop Wood hopes to be in the hunt for a championship with the likes of O'Hara and Carroll.
The return of Ashley Robinson, a 6-3 senior forward/center and St. Joseph's signee, greatly aids that bid. She averaged 13 points and seven rebounds per game last season while leading the Vikings to a 23-3 record and the area's No. 5 ranking.
Coach Jim Ricci is also banking on consistent play from senior guards Jenelle Hudson and Jen Maxwell, 5-8 junior point guard Sam Greenfield and 5-9 senior forward Grace Gallagher.
Robinson, a second-team all-area selection and first-team all-Catholic pick last season, has 790 career points.
Quick and experienced.
St. Hubert has a strong senior nucleus and the speed to run up and down the floor with most league foes.
The senior catalysts for coach Brian Kuzmick are 5-7 wing guard and three-point threat Chrissie Gana, 5-8 forward Carolyn Foley and 5-4 senior point guard Katie Maguire. Gana is a three-year starter, Foley is a physical player on both ends, and Maguire is a savvy floor general willing to take pressure shots.
The Bambies have height in 5-11 junior power forward A.J. Chobot and 5-10 sophomore small forward Megan Decker, who played about 10 minutes a game last year. Aileen Morrin, a 5-7 senior guard, will be a starter or top reserve.
Hallahan's Shannon Mack, a 5-8 forward, does not back down in the paint against taller players. The junior averaged a team-high 13 points last season.
Mack will receive scoring help from 5-foot senior point guard Kimmy Houck, a third-year varsity starter, and 5-6 junior guard and forward Nya Mercer .
Coach Mike Gibson is also banking on solid play from 5-8 sophomore forward Kierstan Franz, a starter at the JV level last season.
At Archbishop Ryan, Jaclyn Hartzell replaces John Farrington as head coach.
Hartzell's leader is 5-3 senior point guard Megan Tole, a second-team all-Catholic selection last season and third-team pick as a sophomore. She is a solid leader with strong court awareness.
The Ragdolls are also sparked by 5-11 junior forward Jessica Koci, 5-8 junior guard Sarah Strybuc, 5-7 junior guard Lauren Smith and 5-9 junior forward Cara McArdle.